The following post was contributed by guest writer by Jeffrey Appelbaum. Jeff is a managing director at Buzzpoint, a social media firm in Los Angeles that specializes in creative online strategies for entertainment and technology companies.
2009 was a record year for Hollywood at the box office. According to the Nielson Co., total box-office receipts from the U.S. and Canada tallied more than $10.6 billion, which is approximately an 8 percent increase over 2008’s record of $9.791 billion. Not too shabby for a down economy.
The year’s slate included not only the usual surplus of sequels and adaptations (Transformers, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, etc.), but some Cinderella stories that defied all financial expectations (The Hangover, Paranormal Activity). However, while 2009 will certainly be remembered as lucrative year at the box office, it’s also the year that social media emerged as a make or break factor for box office success. Below is a list of Hollywood’s 10 biggest social media triumphs of the year.
Given the movie’s estimated $500 million budget, the comprehensive marketing campaign behind Avatar came as little surprise. In September, Fox and Coca-Cola teamed up to launch AVTR.com, which aimed to be “your daily source of information about the Resource Development Administration’s AVTR program.” The site includes some very involved blog posts and curious “photo journals.” But more central to Avatar buzz are the slew of trailers, and more recently, an interactive Adobe Air app that pulls in Avatar’s Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube feeds.
On December 3rd, James Cameron, as well as actors Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington, live-streamed a conversation with fans on both MTV.com and the movie’s official Facebook page, which now tallies close to 650,000 fans. And oh yeah, the movie has grossed more than $1 billion to date.
With an incredibly creative twist on fan engagement, the team behind the Tim Burton-produced 9 released a series of posters with little QR codes on the bottom right-hand corners. When fans took pictures of the codes and sent them in to Focus Features, the movie’s distributor, they would then receive exclusive footage of director Shane Acker revealing some of the characters within the film. Also of note: the official Facebook page for the movie features a slick, interactive game called "AI Challenge" in which you move around pipes in order to optimize “power flow.”
8. Iron Man 2
Even though Iron Man 2 doesn’t hit theaters until later this year, director Jon Favreau has already made a splash for the movie through his Twitter account. With over 600,000 followers, Favreau is using Twitter to communicate not only behind-the-scenes tidbits on the movie’s production, but provide a personal touch to the whole production process. He tweets everything from a first look picture of Scarlet Johansen as Black Widow to re-tweets on fan-submitted Iron Man tattoos.
7. The Twilight Saga: New Moon
As the release date approached, there were over 80,000 tweets per day related to the movie, the vast majority of which contained positive sentiment. At a certain point, marketing a movie like Twilight is simply a matter of massaging the juggernaut of built-in buzz and shaping it whenever possible – which is precisely what the team behind Twilight did. They updated the official Twitter account with relevant content, formed a record breaking partnership between MySpace and Ustream that covered the premier, and stepped back to let YouTube make the trailer the most viral video of the year.
6. Where the Wild Things Are
Just as the original children’s story was in capable hands with director Spike Jonze, so too was the movie’s marketing campaign. A skillfully crafted Facebook page currently tallies nearly 1.8 million fans and featured a consistent stream of updates and behind-the-scenes information leading up to the movie’s release. The page also includes links to the soundtrack, an assortment of video clips, and an application that lets users upload their picture to swap into Max’s face.
The iPhone application (warning: iTunes link), meanwhile, features an assortment of images and clips from the movie, as well as an option in which Carol the monster becomes interactive, eating up your contact photos when put to sleep at night.